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Assault vs. Battery in Wisconsin

Violent crimes are some of the most serious crimes a person can be charged with, and often result in serious penalties. Most of these crimes fall under one of two classifications: assault or battery. These terms are often confused with one another, but knowing the difference is important because the penalties are not the same. Proving a few specific elements to the court when charged with a violent crime can mean the difference between a life-altering felony conviction and a misdemeanor.

What Is Assault?

Wisconsin statutes do not include a formal charge for “assault” in the same way that most other states do. In other states, assault charges are brought upon someone for threatening violence against another person. In Wisconsin, similar behavior can result in a charge for disorderly conduct.

However, the term assault is still relevant to Wisconsin citizens because it is applied to certain crimes that involve sexual violence. There are 4 degrees of sexual assault charges in Wisconsin.

Sexual Assault in the Fourth Degree

Fourth degree sexual assault charges in the state of Wisconsin cover nonconsensual sexual contact with another person that isn’t full intercourse. These charges can be brought against someone for making any sort of unwanted sexual contact with another person. For example, groping another person in a club can result in 4th degree sexual assault charges.

This crime is charged as a Class A misdemeanor. Potential penalties include a jail sentence of 9 months and up to $10,000 worth of fines.

Sexual Assault in the Third Degree

Third degree sexual assault charges are very serious, as these crimes are classified as felonies in the state of Wisconsin. Specifically, 3rd degree sexual assault is a Class G felony. This crime is defined as having sexual intercourse with someone without their consent. Force is not a necessary element.

The potential penalties for a crime of this nature include a prison sentence up to 10 years long as well as $25,000 worth of fines.

Sexual Assault in the Second Degree

Second degree sexual assault charges are brought against anyone who uses or threatens force during a sexual assault. These are very serious charges which can result in equally serious penalties. Some ways 2nd degree sexual assault is proven in court include:

  • The assault resulted in injury, mental distress that drove the victim to seek psychiatric care, or damage to reproductive organs
  • The victim was disabled physically or mentally
  • The victim was intoxicated to the point of being unable to consent to sexual activity
  • The victim was unconscious when the sexual intercourse took place
  • Other individuals helped the defendant commit the assault

This crime is a Class C felony in the state of Wisconsin. Anyone convicted of a crime in that class could be sentenced to 40 years in prison and be required to pay fines up to $100,000.

Sexual Assault in the First Degree

First degree sexual assault is a Class B felony and the most serious form of assault in the Wisconsin statutes. Being convicted of first degree sexual assault can permanently alter someone’s life. The crime is defined as follows:

  • Nonconsensual sexual contact with someone that results in great bodily harm or pregnancy to that person
  • Nonconsensual sexual contact with someone through use of a dangerous weapon or item the victim may reasonably believe to be a dangerous weapon
  • Nonconsensual sexual contact by use of violence or force and aided or abetted by one or more people

A first degree sexual assault conviction could result in a prison sentence up to 60 years long, which means some people would spend the rest of their lives imprisoned.

What Is Battery?

People often use the words assault and battery interchangeably or refer to a single crime as an “assault and battery.” They are generally referring to what is actually considered battery in terms of crimes committed in Wisconsin. There are multiple types of battery someone can be charged with, and each charge comes with specific penalties.

A person commits battery when they use force against someone and make physical contact with the intent to injure them. It is possible to be charged with battery and sexual assault for the same incident.

Misdemeanor Battery

Simple battery, also known as misdemeanor battery, occurs when someone makes physical contact with another person with the intent to cause them harm. This charge is applied to incidents where the level of bodily harm was minor, such as bruises or cuts. Wisconsin has 2 classes of simple battery called domestic battery and nondomestic battery. The penalties are the same, arresting officers treat the situations differently on the scene.

Someone accused of domestic battery will likely be arrested and wait in jail until bail is set by a judge. This is because domestic battery occurs among people who live together or are married and keeping the accused in jail prevents them from retaliating before a protection order can be put in place.

Someone accused of nondomestic battery will receive a Wisconsin Uniform Misdemeanor Citation at the scene of the incident. This citation acts as an order for the accused to appear in court, and if they don’t show up, they will be arrested.

The penalties for simple battery include 9 months in jail and a fine that can cost as much as $10,000.

Substantial Battery

Substantial battery is a felony charge. The definition is similar to that of misdemeanor battery. However, an incident must result in substantial bodily harm to the victim for it to be considered a substantial battery. There are 2 main elements that must be proven for a defendant to be convicted of substantial battery. Those elements are:

  1. The victim endured substantial bodily harm at the hands for the defendant
  2. The substantial bodily harm was the intent of the defendant’s actions

Bodily harm must result in a cut that requires stitches, a broken nose or broken bone, a concussion, tooth loss, or loss of consciousness to be considered substantial. Someone convicted of substantial battery may face up to 3 and a half years in prison as well as a fine worth up to $10,000.

Aggravated Battery

Aggravated battery is the most serious battery charge a person can receive in the state of Wisconsin. This is a felony crime. It can be classified as either a Class H felony or a Class E felony dependent on the following factors:

  • Anyone who causes great bodily harm to someone while intending to cause bodily harm to them will receive a Class H felony charge
  • Anyone who causes great bodily harm to someone while intending to cause great bodily harm to them will receive a Class E felony charge

The classification of the crime is based on the amount of force used in the alleged assault. “Great bodily harm” is used to describe the result of this type of assault rather than “substantial bodily harm.” That’s because this charge is reserved for the most serious assaults. Great bodily harm occurs when an injury presents a great risk of death, permanent disfigurement, or loss of a body part.

Common Defenses for Violent Crimes

Violent crimes, such as sexual assault and battery, can occur for many reasons and without intent. A talented legal team can create a strong legal strategy for anyone charged with a violent crime. Some commonly used defenses for crimes such as battery and assault include:

  • Self Defense: Self defense is often used as a defense for battery charges. A person can use a reasonable amount of force to protect themselves from someone who is going to physically harm them. However, the force they use has to be proportional to that of the threat they face for this defense to be applicable to their case.
  • Consent: Consent can be used as a defense in certain cases, but not aggravated assault and certain sexual assault incidents. For example, if someone dares another person to hit them and that person does it, they might not be held liable for the resulting injuries.
  • Intoxication: A person may be able to claim intoxication for certain battery cases if they were intoxicated against their will. Intoxication can be a valid defense when it comes to intent.
  • No Evidence: Battery charges may be dismissed if a defendant and their prosecution can prove that there was no physical contact made or no intent for harm to occur.

Contact Us for Assistance

If you have been accused of committing a violent crime and need legal counsel, contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella today. Our defense lawyer has more than 20 years of experience in the court room. He understands that being charged with any crime is scary and will fight tirelessly on your behalf to have your charges lowered or dismissed. He will walk you through the legal process and provide individualized guidance. Contact us at (414) 882-8382 or online for a consultation.